0

ASU NOTEBOOK: Rams look for QB Jennings to run more

Stanley Jennings said he hasn't had to leave the pocket and run much this year because the Rams' offensive line is vastly improved from a season ago.

Stanley Jennings said he hasn't had to leave the pocket and run much this year because the Rams' offensive line is vastly improved from a season ago.

ALBANY -- Stanley Jennings walked out of a huddle nearly two months ago knowing that Albany State's season opener against Savannah State rested on his shoulders.

Or more appropriately, his legs.

ASU's quarterback scrambled 12 yards on a designed run for a game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left, giving the Rams a 37-34 victory in the Music City Classic on Sept. 3.

But Jennings, who kept defenses on their toes all last season with his dual-threat ability, has only rushed for eight net yards with no rushing touchdowns in the six games since that dramatic season-opening win.

On Thursday, Rams offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner said he is looking for his 6-foot-2, 250-pound quarterback to start making more things happen with his legs.

"He has proven to be a good pocket passer here lately, but for us to have success he needs to take off with it when things break down," Joyner said.

Jennings has been very effective with his arm this season, throwing for 1,607 yards and 18 touchdowns and completing 49 percent of his passes. But with the recent loss of top receiver Octavius Staton to a season-ending knee injury, Joyner said it will be crucial for Jennings to make plays by scrambling outside of the pocket, starting with Saturday's game -- the annual "Rumble in the Swamp" -- against Clark Atlanta in Waycross.

"Stanley has always been able to make plays happen with his feet," Joyner said. "That was one of the reasons why we brought him in because he was an athletic quarterback who can run and throw. He is just a playmaker. Sometimes we live and die by him."

Jennings, who rushed for 397 positive yards and two touchdowns last season, said one of the main reasons he hasn't been more active with his legs this season is because of his offensive line.

"I'm not necessarily going away from (running the ball). Our line is just a little better," Jennings said. "Last year, I couldn't sit in the pocket like I can this season."

While Joyner agreed that Jennings is getting better protection from his offensive line, he also said his senior quarterback may be wanting to prove that he is a capable pocket passer.

"You get to this point in your career, and you want to show that you can stay in the pocket. I think that's what it is," Joyner said. "But he also getting great protection. He doesn't have to scramble except for subtle movements he can make in the pocket to help those linemen out. Those guys are doing a great job."

After three straight games with negative rushing yardage against Miles, Kentucky State and Lane, Jennings began running the ball a little more last week against Morehouse when he rushed for 41 yards on seven carries. That brought his season rushing total up to 33 yards.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER CLASSIC: Playing at a neutral site for the third time this season hasn't bothered Jennings, who will lead the Rams in Saturday's "Rumble in the Swamp" in Waycross against Clark Atlanta.

It's the third of four Classic games on neutral fields the Rams will play this season but Jennings said Thursday he doesn't care where ASU's games are played.

"If you're a football player, it really doesn't matter where you play. We could play in a back yard," Jennings said. "It's just another game. I don't really care if it's a Classic or not. ... It doesn't matter where we play. We could be playing in North Carolina."

The Rams played in the Music City Classic on Sept. 3 against Savannah State and in the Circle City Classic on Oct. 1 against Kentucky State -- both of which were wins for ASU.

The Rams' final Classic will be Nov. 5 in the Fountain City Classic against Fort Valley State in Columbus.

However, playing in all of these high-profile games does have some benefits. Jennings noted the "big crowds," and defensive lineman Antorio Wells agreed.

"I see them as showcase games," Wells said. "It's just a place where we can showcase our talent in front of more fans and on a bigger stage."

Playing on a neutral field in front of a larger crowd may feel a little different on game day, but ASU coach Mike White said the week of practice preceding a Classic is just like any other.

"We really don't get into them," White said. "We have to concentrate on what we are doing on the field. You can't get into homecomings, you can't get into any of the festivities. ... Right now it's important for us to only think about what we need to do to beat the opponent."

CLOSE TO HOME: Albany State's homecoming game may still be a week away, but Saturday's game in Waycross is a bit of a personal homecoming for senior Rashad McRae.

"That's basically a home game for me," said McRae, who grew up 35 miles northwest of Waycross in Douglas. "A lot of people are going to be there supporting me. I might have a whole side of the stadium just for me."

And McRae's cheering section may have plenty to cheer about, considering the type of game the defensive back had against Morehouse last week.

After getting two interceptions, 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble against Morehouse, he was named SIAC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

It was McRae's second two-interception game of his collegiate career -- he had two picks against Arkansas Baptist while playing for Georgia Military College -- and he said he was thinking about a multi-interception game right after his first pick.

"I was hungry for another one," McRae said. "I had to get another one. It was a must."

ASU GOES RUMBLING AGAIN: Saturday will be the second straight season the Rams have played in the Rumble in the Swamp in Waycross.

In last year's 28-14 win against Savannah State, McRae had two solo tackles.


Looking Ahead

WHO: Albany State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Clark Atlanta (2-5, 1-3).

WHAT: Annual "Rumble in the Swamp."

WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Waycross.

RADIO: 98.1 FM.

FOLLOW ONLINE: Go to twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.